One of the introductory sources used to introduce the Life Orientation Research Task Umbrella Topic uses the idea that all human beings originated from Africa, due to anthropological DNA profiling proof, and the idea that we are all originally African. While it is all very well that Americans and Europeans etc. want to dig into their roots finding linkages to being African, and in turn, establishing a sense of unanimity amongst all Human Beings since we all come from one place, my research project explores the topic from an African perspective, investigating whether or not Africans from different parts of the continent actually feel united themselves. An idea for a United States of Africa was first vaguely suggested back when Africa was ruled by Colonialists. However, in recent years, the African Union looked into actually making this idea a reality.
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My motivation behind this research topic is that as a Ghanaian by roots, but a born and bred South African, I have dealt with a bit of an identity crisis, not really feeling like I truly belong in either country. I have experienced and have been emotionally affected by situations in which Africans look down on other Africans, and see themselves as different to, or separate from other Africans of different countries and even different ethnical groups. For so many years, all African countries have had to face a range of problems, from the issue of African independence, to the continuous problem of poverty. As a continent that is perceived as primitive and underdeveloped in comparison to the rest of the world, the concept that becoming united could help us rise above the problems of Africa and possibly make us the most powerful and influential country/continent is a very attractive idea. The amount of general natural resources found all across this continent could be very beneficial for us, and as one big country, there might be more control over the resources, as opposed to foreign forces coming in and taking advantage of these resources in the possession of minor, defenceless countries. There is the potential to create a very strong force of the 54 states that could be very intimidating when it comes to foreign affairs.
My aim for this project is to explore the likelihood of this idea.
I aim to investigate the opinions and perspective of citizens from various African nations, investigating the way in which they perceive Africa at this current moment.
I aim to compare the way in which South Africans view this issue, and the way that other Africans view this issue, to see whether the final result is a united view, or whether it is more of a South African point of view due to different cultural environments.
With this information, I am going to analyse whether this could be a good idea, obviously not from a professional point of view, but from a common citizen point of view, seeing as most of my interviewees will be everyday people. Would it be practical or even realistic to form a United States of Africa as an effective solution to our problems? Would Africans be comfortable relinquishing their country’s names, flags, and proud nationality to become one and the same as people they once referred to as ‘the other Africans’? My theory is that most Africans do not see themselves as equals to Africans of other nations, and my research project will hopefully determine whether this is true or not.
The United States of Africa or ‘Pan-Africanism’
The African Union, an organisation made up of members of 54 countries of Africa (all excluding Morocco due to conflicts with the Sahara Arab Democratic Republic, another member of the AU) was an organisation officially launched by Thabo Mbeki in 2002. The idea stemmed from the original Union of African States project, an alliance of three African countries (Ghana, Guinea and Mali) founded by Kwame Nkrumah, in the 1960’s (McKown, 1973). He planned to start the ‘Pan-Africanism’ movement, and founded the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). However, the organisation – as critics said – did not do much in the favour of actual African citizens, but rather benefited the leaders of the countries more. The organisation was a gathering of all leaders across the continent to discuss and try to solve Africa’s issues, ironic since most of Africa’s problems were caused by dictator-like leaders. (African Union, 2012). Critics described it as a “Dictator’s club”. In 2002, as the last chairman of the organisation, Thabo Mbeki disbanded the OAU and established the new African Union. (African Union, 2012)
Around 2006, new talk started concerning overthrowing the African Union, and replacing it with a single African government for the new United States of Africa. An AU Summit hosted in Accra, Ghana in 2007 was organised for various African leaders to come together and discuss forming a union that would help Africa flourish in this world of “increasing globalisation” (Soares, 2007). The government would control a 2-million man army, have stronger, combined forces in the fight against AIDS, and be represented as one voice when it came to intercontinental matters.
The movement was lead for many years by the very eager Maummar Gaddafi. Some African leaders were all for the idea, some were against it, believing his motives to be questionable. Those opposed felt that more of Africa’s countries need to be strengthened within themselves, both economically and politically before this could become a reality. “Before you put a roof on a house, you need to build the foundation,” Thabo Mbeki expressed on the matter (Soares, 2007).
At the 2007 AU Summit in Accra Ghana, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni expressed that he believed it would do more harm than good, and would “create tension rather than cohesionâ€¦” (Ross, 2007). He further explained how he believed that some groups would force their identities upon others, whereas not everyone will be willing to give up their identity. He suggested that we first focus on uniting similar nations before we try and unite everyone all at once, especially considering the traditional differences such as languages and culture. He even mentioned other aspects that we should rather focus on as a continent, such as the environment, trade negotiations and managing a defence pact etc. (Ross, 2007)
‘Baby steps’ is the general idea. Many people consider the goal to achieve this United States of Africa by 2015 as too hurried, and not thoroughly thought out. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s previous finance minister, makes reference to the EU on her opinion on the matter, describing how it took them long to form a Union; some nations like Bulgaria and Romania were not easily accepted due to their gang problems and disorder. She highlights goals that we should focus on such as political and economical stability and regional infrastructure. (Soares, 2007)
Advocates of Pan-Africanism
Kwame Nkrumah, the chief founder of the idea of a united Africa, was Ghana’s first president after they gained independence. As president of the first country to have gained independence, Kwame Nkrumah immediately launched and started promoting his idea of one African country (McKown, 1973). His vision of this included the Northern Arabic African countries, since he was well acquainted with their leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. At that time they were seen as more of an excluded part of Africa, and this was the first step to bridging the gap (Nkrumah, 2007). Much scepticism was held against Nkrumah, since he was able to build a big palace, with a 2 200-seater hall, for the Annual OAU summit to be held, all in his quest to supposedly find ways to provide for “poor Africa” (Soares, 2007).
Maummar Gaddafi was another huge advocate of the united Africa idea. When Thabo Mbeki started the AU, Gaddafi publically branded the organisation as a failure and swore to keep pushing the idea of a United States of Africa. He simply saw no future for singular African nations (Gaddafi urges pan-African state , 2007). As a man with a strong personality and strong opinions, Gaddafi had his fair amount of enemies; people against him and the idea of a pan-African State. After his death, members of the AU commented that everything was better without the pressure that Gaddafi placed on many leaders to be pro- Pan-African movement (AU better without ‘intimidating’ Gaddafi – Zuma, 2011). Gaddafi’s urgency put a lot of strain in the matter even when so many people were sceptic about it, making his motives highly questionable. Having been in power for 42 years in Libya, many imagined that he saw himself as the president of this new country, in order to claim authority and power.
Civil wars and conflict between Africans
For the longest time Africa, the second largest continent in the world, consisting of 54 countries and home to about 1 billion people with almost 2000 languages (Africa, 2012) has been a relatively troubled continent. Originally consisting of different tribes and a few kingdoms even, it was seen as very primitive, especially since it hadn’t yet been explored. However, as soon as it was, colonialists from other continents began taking over Africa, territory by territory. Colonialists were mostly the Arabs from the Middle East and Europeans. Years and even centuries passed before Ghana gained independence as the first country to do so. The rest of the countries soon followed, however it was from this point that a lot of Africa’s problems started to develop.
The book Africa: Postcolonial Conflict summarises and pin points a general source to Africa’s problems after the colonial period. All across Africa, the main goal was the same: to successfully take back Africa and to make it thrive under the African rule. They aimed to take full advantages of the abundant resources across the continent, and use the money made to create businesses, and “improve education, health care, housing and economic communications.” (Downing, 2003). They aimed to spread out the wealth, using the richer countries’ wealth to support the poorer ones. All these aims are still the goals of the AU, and part of the USA II project (Downing, 2003).
In truth, many new leaders of many of the newly independent nations of Africa had been educated outside of Africa, like Nkrumah and Liberia’s Charles Taylor, raised with a different lifestyle to the common people of the country, causing a divide and possible barrier of understanding between the leaders and the people (Downing, 2003). The fight for independence in the countries had been so unanimous, that the new governments did not have any opposing parties wanting power in the country. This meant that even with systems of democracy, the people did not have a choice in the leadership of the country. It also meant that the single-ruling parties began dictator-like behaviours that corrupted the countries (Downing, 2003). Under colonial rule, different ethnic groups were generally separated by European boundaries and during postcolonial times, the tension between these groups grew. The single-ruling parties of the countries usually came from one tribe, which created even more tension and bitterness, and during times of famine and financial difficulties, the tribes would point a finger of blame on each other (Downing, 2003) .
War between different groups, mainly Muslims and non-Muslims, based on religious differences broke out in countries such as Sudan, Nigeria and Chad (Downing, 2003). During Colonisation, the British ruled Sudan in two parts; the Arab Muslims who lived in the North, and the black, mostly Christians who lived in the South. When they gained independence, military Muslim leaders took over, enforcing Muslim laws upon the entire country, igniting a 28-year civil war with the Southerners who formed an armed resistance. The civil war completely destroyed the country, and only came to an end in 2002 (Downing, 2003).
Some African countries like Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti were caught in the middle of the Cold War. The USA and the Soviet Union supported different 3rd world neighbouring African countries, providing them with economical and with military support and eventually set the countries up against each other. This lead to civil wars that severely impacting their economies, leaving them in ruin. Poverty and famines that spread over this area during this time also had a huge impact of the people (Downing, 2003).
In Liberia, when the government tried to raise the price of rice, riots and protests began, and eventually a group of soldiers – the Krahns, led by Master-Sergeant Samuel Doe – overthrew the ruling government. They promised the people democracy and justice, but instead used violence and corruption to rule the country, and the people of the country got poorer. Soon other armies sprung up in objection, and the country went into civil war with up to 6 different tribes fighting each other, not necessarily for power, but more out of ethnic hatred. Western Africa got involved to restore the peace and Liberia had elections in 1997. Charles Taylor won these elections, but in 1999 uprisings began again, and the country sunk back into an ungovernable, unstable war zone (Downing, 2003).
The double genocide of two the ethnic groups, the Tutsis and Hutus of Rwanda is probably one of the most renowned African civil wars. With a 90% population of Hutus, the Tutsis were favoured by the colonial government and this stirred hostility. When independence was gained, the Hutus took charge, leading to a number of Tutsis that fled the country. The assassination of the Hutu leader made his protective squads (Interahamwe) fight back and they began killing the suspects of the murder, i.e. the Tutsis. The Hutus were made to believe that these attacks were performed by the Tutsis, and orders went out for all Hutus to defend themselves and kill all Tutsis that were still in Rwanda. The original exiled Tutsis came back to invade Uganda for revenge but eventually, a government that contained both Tutsis and Hutus came to be, and some sort of peace was restored to the country, with a “safety zone” refugee camps created by the French in Zaire (DRC) for the exiled Hutus to return to (Downing, 2003).
These are all mere examples of only a few conflicts in Africa over the years, and even today, problems of power-possession, oppression, racism, and dictatorships sweep the continent. Not to mention other factors that have a serious impact on Africans such as poverty, hunger and AIDS. Africa does not seem to be in a position to be able to unite just yet, as there is so much more potential for more civil wars. Despite all of this, we must not lose sight of the benefits of a USA II, one being that problems are always better resolved with combined forces. The main factor that would allow this idea to be successful is how the people of Africa would feel about it, and their sense of unity.
To carry out this project, I decided to use both quantitative and qualitative research.
For my literature review, I did some secondary qualitative research using the internet, books, articles and other resources in order to research previous information and matters pertaining to the focus question, specifically the history of Africa and the idea of Pan-Africanism.
To further my research, I formulated a questionnaire of 4 questions that are relevant to the topic; questions that will investigate what people would think of a United States of Africa. The questionnaire contains multiple choice questions with space for extra comments, if anyone wished to express an opinion. This would ensure that I had both quantitative and qualitative data. The questionnaire was used to interview people both from Africa and a few from other continents.
I compiled a list of 30 potential participants of the ages 16 and older. The participants were from Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, DRC, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe. (It was initially planned to include participants form other continents, but it was decided against, and so question number 5 on the questionnaire was cancelled.)
Once I had completed the list, I went about to hand out the questionnaires to the participants. Due to my demand for very specific participants from various countries, some questionnaires were completed over social networks.
After all the questionnaires had been completed, I assessed the multiple choice questions and generated bar graphs from them to illustrate the trend of the answers. I separated South African answers from other African countries’ answers so that I could examine whether the trends were affected by different cultural environments.
I used the added comments that some participants gave on their questionnaires to write up a summary of their general view of Pan-Africanism. I also used the visible trends from my graphs to support the information. I then linked the information from the questionnaires to the information that I researched in my literature review.
Finally, I drew up a conclusion based on my literature review, results and summary. I linked all my information to whether or not Africa would be able to form a single country, from the perception of my African participants.
How would you describe the state of Africa with regards to political stability and issues of Xenophobia? You may motivate your answer.
â-¡ Good â-¡ Reasonable â-¡Bad â-¡Horrible
Do you think Africa would be able to form a United States of Africa at this point in time, considering the political, economic and racial issues that we face in the different parts of the continent? You may motivate your answer. â-¡ Yes â-¡No
Do you think it would benefit Africa, or do more harm than good? You may motivate your answer. â-¡It would benefit Africa â-¡It would not benefit Africa
Do you think of yourself as equal to and similar to any other African from another African country? You may motivate your answer.
â-¡We are all equal â-¡We are not equal â-¡I don’t look down on them, but there is a difference
I hereby give Cordelle Annor permission to use these answers in her IEB Life Orientation Research Project.
Tables and Graphs of Results
Majority of the participants feel that the state of Africa is bad with regards to its political state and problems of Xenophobia. Questionnaires 7 and 9 state that foreigners are still referred to in derogatory terms and that African’s don’t yet see each other as fellow Africans. Participant number 24 says that Africa is very far from getting a good state of stability right, whereas, the one participant (12) who actually referred to the state of Africa as good, justified it by saying that, “Overall, the continent is stable, in spite of some pockets of instability. Xenophobia is a world-wide phenomenon and not limited to Africa.” This is a valid point, but most of the participants don’t seem to view Africa in this way, which possibly means that most Africans would feel that the continent is not stable enough to join to form a country.
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All the examples in my literature review of conflicts and wars between Africans, supports what most of the participants believe. Most wars and conflicts, like in Rwanda and Libya for example, have only recently kind of sorted out their conflicts, and yet, there is still a lot of conflict in those countries, as in many countries all over the continent. Even in a country that is relatively politically stable, there are still huge problems of xenophobia, like in South Africa for example. Both my literature and the questionnaire results clearly show that Africa is not very stable.
When asked if Africa would be able to form a United States of Africa, most participants felt that it wouldn’t be ready for such. Some said that there was just too much diversity between the African countries, and that countries that are less stable would bring the well-being of other countries down. The well-off countries would not want to combine with the less stable countries being aware of the problems that they are facing. Questionnaire 20 even states that it might be unfair to join the countries. Some of the participants blamed the leaders of the African countries, saying that they are too selfish, and that there is too much dictatorship in Africa. “Africa would not be able to unite unless there was a deep sense of kinship, belonging and unity,” questionnaire 8 declares. However, one participant (3) thinks that Africa would be able to form a country, since most of the political issues are triggered by external factors such as the colonialists.
The information in my literature review reflected opinions much like the general response to this question. Most of the African leaders that were at the AU summit in Ghana in 2007 were opposed to the idea because they felt that most countries had to strengthen themselves before Africa could possibly unite (Soares, 2007). Yoweri Museveni from Uganda believed that some African groups would force their identity on others, and not everyone would want to give up their identity (Ross, 2007).
Despite the obviously negative response to the possibility of forming a USAII at this point in time, a lot more participants believed that it would eventually be a good thing for Africa. Those for it believe that uniting will be good for tackling the problems that the various countries face. Participant 16 believes that if unity works positively in smaller communities then it should work for a continent. However, those against it believe that there are simply too many differences between the countries, politically, economically, and socially. Becoming united might lead to a continental war, as well as distract Africa from the serious issues at hand as everyone, including leaders will focus on petty things such as who will lead the country.
In the literature review, I found that a few people thought that the way to approach this topic was with baby steps, and that Africa needs to focus on individual countries and smaller countries before it attempts such a big project. Thabo Mbeki motivated this opinion by saying that we need to build the foundation before we try to put a roof on a house (Soares, 2007). Museveni believes that it would do more harm than good; just as most of the participants expressed as well, and he motivated this by saying it would cause tension rather that cohesion.
Through all of this, most of the participants still felt that all Africans are equal; that there is no one nation that is better than the other, as we are all Africans at the end of the day. There were very few participants that opposed this opinion, and a lot of them felt that while there is no one better than the other, there are very distinct differences between the different religions and cultural differences. One participant (15), although she ticked that she believes that all Africans are equal, she stated that other Africans possibly still dislike one another, and do not believe that they do not believe that we are all equal. Some participants pointed out that due to the vast differences between economical classes, some Africans being rich and educated, others not, one cannot exactly say that we are equal because of this difference (Questionnaire 25).
This response shows that even though majority of the participants don’t believe that Africa should unite, they don’t feel and particular hatred of dislike for other Africans. Although this sample cannot represent the feelings of the rest of Africa, as other Africans in different parts of Africa, or even different parts of the country may have stronger feelings on this matter. However, it shows that there has been some sort of improvement in the attitude of Africa, in that civil wars are less likely if Africans believe that they are equal. That was the problem in the conflicts and wars mentioned in the literature review; the different cultural groups believed that there was a difference between them and others, and that they were more superior to the other cultural groups.
Ages younger than 20
Ages older than 20
Who the participants were:
Fortunately, I was able to get a good balance in the different kinds of people that I questioned, and to truly evaluate my results, I feel it’s best to compare South African opinions to opinions of people from other countries. Although all of my participants are currently staying in South Africa, and therefore are all influenced by the South African society in a way, this comparison will analyse whether there is more of a trend in the answers of people who come from and have lived in other parts of Africa as opposed participants who most likely only know South Africa, as it is their home.
The State of Africa
In describing the state of Africa, majority of the South Africans and other African nations feel that the state of Africa is bad. Wherein the foreigners show a more diverse trend in answers, having had two participants describe the state of Africa as the two extremes, ‘Good’ and ‘Horrible’, the South Africans stuck mostly to the ‘Reasonable’ and ‘Bad’ options, and two South African participants that said it was ‘Horrible’.
Would Africa be able to form a United States?
Once Again, majority of South Africans and the people from other African nations feel that Africa would not be able to form a United States of Africa at this moment, but absolutely no South Africans believed that it was possible, whereas some Africans from other nations believe that it might be possible.
Would it benefit Africa to form a United States of Africa?
A very clear majority of South Africans believe that forming a united country would not benefit Africa, and they were a bit more negative about this question, whereas the foreigners showed a trend of going both ways. More of the foreigners are optimistic about a single African country.
Are Africans equal?
An equal amount of South Africans and foreigners believe that all Africans are equal and there is no one Nation better that the other, however there are 2 foreigners that believe that we are not equal, and only one South African. Quite a number of both groups believe that we are equal but there is a difference between each country, and although not the majority, both are very close to the majority.
The results for each question for both categories of Africans are relatively similar, but this may be because, as mentioned before, all the participants have some sort of South African society influence. In some questions, however, South Africans seem to have answered more negatively, for example, in describing the state of Africa, as well as in question 2, in which the participants were asked if Africa could form one country now and no South Africans thought that we could. A reason for this may be that since South Africa is a country that is considered to be one of the richer, more developed countries of Africa, it would get affected by a union, as some of the participants mentioned, joining countries would make the poorer, worse off countries being down the developed countries as money would be more distributed etc. This information confirms the facts in the literature review; that the joining of African countries is in fact influenced by different cultural environments. The South African participants are like South African leaders like Mbeki and Zuma, who were also opposed to the idea of a single African country.
Evidence of completing questionnaires online
After doing the research that I presented in the Literature Review, I saw that Africa seemed very unstable, what with its history being full of so many wars and conflicts. The information on the African Union illustrated how not even the leaders of the African countries are unanimous on the decision to form a single country. From the literature review, you can understand that potentially could be a need for uniting the continent, so help each other deal with issues that we are faced with. It could benefit a lot of countries, and the continent as a whole, but the literature review also provided clear evidence that countries are not stable enough, and there is too much corruption going on for this plan to be successful.
The questionnaire results showed that the participants are quite negative about the idea; they do not feel that Africa can or should form a United States of Africa. They feel that the continent is unstable and too corrupted, and that there are far too many reasons that would get in the way of successfully, and peacefully uniting. Not only that, but that it would cause more problems than it would solve, and actually turn out to be harmful to the state of Africans. Their response was much like the African leaders: they were not unanimous. If we do consider this sample to be a true representative of the continent, then Africans do not feel united within themselves, whether they are South African or from another country. South Africans tend to have a more negative response, but the general trend of both groups is opposed to the idea. So while there is a movement overseas to support the idea that every individual of the human race is tied together by our African origin, being African does not necessarily mean unison. There will forever be cultural, political and a variety of difference that separate each different groups of human beings.
However, as mentioned before, the results of this project can be greatly refined. 30 participants is a very small sample for dealing with such a huge topic that deals with the whole of Africa, and if this research topic could be carried out on a more professional level, many more participants should be included. The sample could expand to involve Africans who have only ever known their own countries. It should include Africans of different economic classes, as the questionnaires also suggested that this is another barrier that makes people unequal. There are a lot of different categories that need to be included, and interviews with profes
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